Lent Day 30 – Beasts of the Earth
by Fr. Robert Barron
During Lent, we may spend time doing battle with what we call our “animal passions.” But this may not be the right way to put it because God’s covenant is made, not just with men and women, but with the animals as well.
I know this sounds strange to us, but that is because we are the heirs of modernity, a philosophical movement that tends to separate human beings radically from other animals and from nature. Modernity sees them as, at best, things that might serve us or be mastered by us. But God has a much more integrated vision of things. All creatures, coming forth from God, are ontological siblings—brothers and sisters of the same Father. In finding oneness with God, we find, ipso facto, oneness with the rest of creation.
This idea is reflected in much of the great tradition prior to modernity. St. Thomas Aquinas says that vegetable, plants, and animals are ensouled like us. In fact, the word “animal” just means “thing with an anima [a soul]”. Thomas saw us as part of a great chain or hierarchy of being. But for the modern consciousness, we are disconnected from this chain. We have so mastered nature that we are, effectively, alienated from it.
In biblical terms, this alienation is an outgrowth of sin. Sin is the caving in on oneself, prompted by fear and pride, effectively cutting us off from each other. But sin also cuts us off from the non-human world around us. It cuts us off from our love for it, our curiosity about it, our care for it, and our fascination with it.
But Jesus, in his own person, joins together the disparate elements of creation, the spiritual and the material, angels and wild beasts. He brings them together and re-links the chain of being.